Saturday Night In San Francisco
July 13, 2002
by Lynette Harris

After slipping out of the arms of my sweet children, I drove my husband's SUV toward San Francisco to see the new performance piece by my old friends, Richard Kittle and Kim Epifano. I worried that the sundress I had chosen wouldn't be warm enough as I notice the fog spilling over the hills of Marin while I drove down 101. With our "Fast Pass", I didn't have to stop, roll down the window, and pay the toll, but I was late nonetheless, as usual. The drive is always colorful, up and over the hills of Pacific Heights on Divisadero to the Castro District and then hang a left to the Mission.

The show was being held in "The Dance Mission Project." This space almost ceased to exist during the rise of the "dot-coms." Rising rents, driven up by seemingly endless "dot-com" money, suddenly ended, as did the entire era. Krissy Keefer fought long and hard to keep this venue open for the dancers of San Francisco. One day soon, I hope to catch her story for The Gilded Serpent. Though not a Middle Eastern dancer, Krissy is an amazing creative force in the Bay Area.

So is Kim Epifano! I remember being amazed by her when I worked with her in The Dance Brigades wonderful Christmas spoof "The Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie." Kim played a crazy lesbian version of Drockmeyer, which filled the ancient theatre in the Scottish Rite temple in Oakland with her presence (upstairs from where the Summer Caravan Festival is held now).

I found parking surprisingly easy and right in front of what I imagined must be Richard's van (windshield held on with blue masking tape and a hula girl on the dash). I've known Richard since our ski patrol days at Bear Valley Ski Resort. He introduced me to my husband.

The Mission District is always hopping. I love all the candle shops, palm readers, and Guadalupe figurines in the store fronts. I had to ring a doorbell to get in to the theatre. A 20 year old woman in black (with contrived bad hair) lets me in with a scolding for being late and an admonition to be quiet while going up the creaky stairs. I let the other similar looking artsy wannabe in the lobby know that a review of tonight's performance will appear on our wonderful web 'zine, "The Gilded Serpent" and offered her a card. She turned out to be the house manager of the show and gave me an attitude laden sneer and said, "Leave your card at the desk."

The first act was already in progress, of course; it was a duo of drummers called "The Rhythmics". One member is a lovely Asian woman dressed in Taiko attire and the another appeared to be a raggedy hippy. They were good performers, using plenty of facial expressions, reaches and spins. They played in dialogue or took turns doing solos over the other's rhythm. They were interesting and told us about the cultural exchanges they do and the fusion of countries (including Middle Eastern) that influence their work. At one point, one drummer danced while playing hand cymbals, (not finger cymbals).

Next performing were Kim and Richard.. I knew they would be the best, of course! Kim, connected by a harness, rope, and pulley was lifted out of a refrigerator box, upside down by Richard (who was in the dark, upstage). She wore silver high heels, and an "old lady's" full white foundation garment (girdle) with pointy brassiere and all. She belted out an old song medley with woman themes (I thought at first that she was lip-syncing!). She employed wonderful gestures, dragging the 'fridge box and sometimes appeared like a puppet or rag doll, falling back into the box. The next section of the piece was done with black lights. Her nightie, which I hadn't previously noticed, glowed along with the body paint that she wore. (It reminded me of Bert Balladine's stories of dancing the "Psychedelic Dance of Love" in florescent body paint.) I guess you had to be there, but I couldn't help but think that Kim would also have been a hit in vaudeville venues.

My brief experience with Project Bandaloop exposed me to the joys of adding the vertical plane to one's dancing possibilities. When actually aloft, I found it very constricting as one who is accustomed to using my torso, but the moment your toe touches the ground it gives you the ability to spin, leap and body wave into other angles. Add an experienced rigger and manipulator like Richard to your team, and it must be very exciting! Richard said that the choreography was only loosely done with much room for improvisation. The comedy and movement were seamless without loosing our attention for a moment.

The next piece was by some "Nature Dude". It was a self-indulgent piece that didn't resonate for me. First we saw a red flash of light with thunder, then we heard water running and a blue spot lit up this androgynous looking person who was seated, looking up, while holding a branch. The extended water sounds made me think of the rest room. He stayed there, endlessly, finally moving a few fingers. Next we were treated to his mosquito imitation. Then he used his lips to crawl up the branch like a caterpillar, and jumped about like a frog to what may have been Chinese children's music. Next, he writhed spastically to a short burst of heavy metal music while lit with red and white strobe lighting. That was it! At least he had some semblance of a story line. Did he really rehearse this?

After the break, I tried to watch the supposedly famous improvisational group from the Netherlands, "Magpie Music Dance Company". Ahg! How awful! More audience members also dressed in black laughed unconvincingly at contrived movements by this group. One dancer went to the side door and pinched herself between the double doors and then just slammed them few times. A violin player came out deliberately screeching her way up and down her fingerboard. All this became very boring--very quickly. For a while, I talked to my friend in the lobby. I was hoping to catch a picture of him and Kim together. "No," he said, "This group will be performing for another half hour before they stop and Kim is trapped back stage until it's over." I could not bear the violin noise any longer and left. I heard later, from Kim, that they were better at the next night's performance. Effective improvisation becomes more consistant with experience. Okay! How 'bout some quick pictures to show our readers some other activities on a Saturday night in San Francisco?

Café Amira was busy as usual. I was able to park creatively and run in for a couple shots. Nanna is looking lovely, as usual. She was about to cruise the audience for tips, using her brass pot. Customers put the money in the pot rather than in her costume. Mimi Spencer and Mary Ellen Donald were playing music. It all looked like fun, but I wanted to include more for Gilded Serpent readers! I ran back to my car before I received a ticket and thought I would go to the new Aziza Restaurant to catch whoever is dancing, but I found out (by cell phone) that their shows are over for the night. I called Pasha, and yes, they would have one more show at 11:30. Owner, Jalal, was too busy, and the man on the phone didn't recognize me. I called Bashir at Marrakech and he volunteered to look for and save a parking spot for me. All right! I head down Market Street, turn on Franklin Street past the Oasis Hotel, right on OFarrell, past the Mitchel Brothers' naked girl show, and oops, no Bashir. I found more "creative parking" across the street and ran inside. Ah! the absolutely beautiful Calliope was dancing! What a treat she is! If you come to this town you must plan to see her. She is such a professional! She has a smooth shimmering shimmy as well as white soft skin and red hair! Bashir was playing the oud for her. He's got a cute Rudy Valentino haircut these days. Mohammed Amine was playing the nay and keyboards and Imad was on the dumbek. I sat with a few regular customers and Bashir signaled the waitress to bring me a drink. The restaurant was doing good business that night! Bashir was giving orders from behind his oud and still able to give us some lively solos. (He has a wonderful smile and seems to enjoy his job.) After Calliope's show I ran back out to my car before I earned myself a parking citation.

I took a left on Taylor and drive up, up, and over the hill by Grace Cathedral and down past "Aladdin Alley" to Columbus Ave. Bimbo's is there and is the site where Magana Baptiste used to have her "Mr. & Miss America of the Universe" contest. What a great old fashioned night club it is, with its red velvet wall paper! The stage sometimes has a runway and it has one of those optical illusions in the bar where it looks like a live naked mermaid is swimming in the fish tank. I was so involved in my thoughts that I missed my turn. I found my way back to Pasha and called ahead to see if they would hold me a spot in front like Bashir tried to do for me . No such luck! The valet parking that Jalal had just told me was $7 the day before, I saw is really $10! Forget it! Sorry TerriAnne, (or Zeinah as Jalal wants her to be called now)! I'll have to catch you onstage another time.

I drove slowly past O 'Mythos, the newest Greek club. No, I didn't see or hear any music happening. I heard they were having trouble getting their entertainment license due to complaints from the neighbors. Also, one of the partners was killed recently in a car crash. He was returning very early in the morning from Vegas after a very successful trip to the tables. I've heard that the other partner is discouraged now. I'll bet that this place will become another pizza joint. I hope not. I guess Papa's Taverna on the Petaluma River will remain the only bazoukee club in the Bay Area for a while longer!

The Palace of Fine Arts was lit up against the fog and the bridge felt comforting as I floated through the fog…home to bed and back to the welcoming arms of my beloved children…



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